358 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI COFFEEVILLE HOTEL A remnant of the railway systems which once took passengers all over the nation, the Coffeeville Hotel, sometimes called the Hamblet Hotel, served passengers that were travelling on the Illinois Central Railroad. The Coffeeville Hotel is a national landmark as it is a demonstration of railroad hotel architecture, and remains a reminder of what used to be such an important mode of transportation in Mississippi and throughout the United States. region. Under President Thomas Jefferson’s authorization following the Louisiana Purchase, the U.S. Army began improving the long-existing Natchez Trace, a native pathway that runs between Natchez and Nashville. The Gaines Trace followed not long after. When completed in 1812, it connected Cotton Gin Port on the upper Tombigbee with various market centers on the Tennessee River. Road building through the Clay Hills took on greater urgency during and after the War of 1812, when the war generated new demands for military and commercial access to New Orleans. Jackson’s Military Road was the result. General Andrew Jackson pioneered the route. At the war’s conclusion, he lobbied Congress to construct a more formal road from Nashville to New Orleans by way of Lowndes and Noxubee counties. Congress appropriated funds for it in 1816, and it was completed in 1820. The Jackson Military Road was an important trade and travel route until the railroads came through the region at mid-century. Robinson Road, which was built across Choctaw territory to connect Jackson with Columbus, opened the next year. Its intersection with Military Road and its designation as the mail route challenged the status of the Natchez Trace as the primary path across the Clay Hills. Robinson Road remained a vital overland artery until railroads arrived. The new roads had profound effects on the region. They made towns such as Columbus and Cotton Gin Port into commercial crossroads and ushered an increasing number of Americans to and through Choctaw country following the War of 1812. Included among the newcomers was the small group of Protestant missionaries sent by the American Board of Missions at the behest of the Choctaws in 1818. The Choctaws hoped to improve their children’s lives and preserve their independence as a people by obtaining education from these missionaries. The missionaries were eager to oblige. Just a few years earlier, in a tour of the Mississippi Territory, two New England missionaries had noted how the Choctaws and Chickasaws “have already made great progress in agriculture and civilization and are by degrees casting off the Indian habits and adopting the modes of the whites.” By their reckoning, it was time for them to devote greater attention to accelerating that process of change by teaching the Choctaws to be American-style farmers and producers, and perhaps by converting some to Presbyterianism. Rev. Cyrus Kingsbury of Massachusetts took the lead in these efforts by opening the first mission to the Choctaws at Eliot on theYalobusha River near present- day Grenada in 1818. The Eliot mission grew quickly into a complex that included several cabins, a mill, carpenter and blacksmith shops, and a school, in which fifty students had enrolled in PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, HISTORIC AMERICAN BUILDINGS SURVEY/ HISTORIC AMERICAN ENGINEERING RECORD/HISTORIC AMERICAN LANDSCAPES SURVEY HIGHWAY BRIDGE ACROSS THE TOMBIGBEE This 1927 swing bridge in Columbus is on the National Register of Historic Places. In keeping with regulations saying that all bridges over navigable rivers must have a means for boats to pass under them, the Columbus bridge across the Tombigbee River has one side which can pivot open to allow tall ships to pass through. The swing function was only used twice, and the bridge has not been opened in more than eighty years.